My family often uses the expression "and then I found five dollars" to end a story that even the teller now realizes was rather pointless. The notion is to add a little (undeserved) punch.

A search on the internet shows that that usage is actually quite common, but I don't see any origin listed. Does anyone know where that usage originated and/or where it was popularized?

I tried looking via google ngram search The earliest possible use I find is in a google books search, but I can't quite tell without more context. As a commenter points out this looks to be used in the actual sense but given that the questioner was frustrated I thought perhaps it could be an origin. Now that I see how hard it is to acquire that source, I rather doubt it had enough influence to start the expression anyway.

  • 2
    Your link is to an irrelevant "natural" usage (where the speaker really did find five dollars). I doubt the usage you're talking about (described here as a phrase Young Hip People use to end a boring or irrelevant story) goes back more than a decade or two, but I stand to be corrected on that. I'd hardly say it's been "popularized" though - the meaning should be obvious in context, but I don't recall ever hearing it before now. (Disclaimer: IANAYHP :) – FumbleFingers Sep 27 '17 at 15:43
  • 1
    This Urban Dictionary entry implies the I found five version (spoken by the boring tale-teller) was preceded by someone in his audience interrupting with And then you found twenty dollars (as an exclamation, or rhetoricial question, I dunno). – FumbleFingers Sep 27 '17 at 15:51
  • Yes you are correct that it is used in the actual context there, but as I was trying to find an origin it seemed appropriate. I noticed that the questioner had his "impatience returning". It is possible that it is unrelated yes. – Joel Berger Sep 27 '17 at 15:52
  • 2
    More context for your 1927 cite: Last August, that day I went into town to the Chatauqua they were holding, I found five dollars. Gramma. You never told me. Mary. I never told anybody. It's not "possible" that's unrelated to your "idiomatic" usage - it's 100% certain. – FumbleFingers Sep 27 '17 at 15:58
  • 1
    People could say any number of "attention-grabbing non-sequiturs" in such contexts. I wouldn't mind betting that and then I kicked a hobo, for example, "predates" your version (if "dating" such usages is meaningful, which I doubt). – FumbleFingers Sep 27 '17 at 16:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.